Claude Richard makes his money buying and selling scrap metal. Moving metal — that’s another story. that’s another story. Transportation isn’t a profit centre for scrap dealers. It’s a mounting expense, given the cost of fuel, trucks, and drivers. For Richard, owner of Limar Enterprises in Notre Dame, New Brunswick, controlling transportation costs starts with how his workers manage payload, time, and effort in the loading area.
“We crush metal on site, bale it into 1,500-pound blocks, and haul it to a shredder where it’s sold,” says Richard. “Our manpower runs the loader and drives the truck. The more efficiently we can load, the faster we can get on the road to the buyer.”
Limar transports scrap on an eight-axle B-train tractor-trailer set. At 25 meters long and a maximum gross vehicle weight of 62,500 kilograms, it’s a productive combination. But reaching a 35-tonne payload target and balancing the weight legally across all eight axles can be tricky.
“Our guys do this every day and have a good feel for how many bales to put onto the trailers,” says Richard. “Still, we don’t want to cross a yard scale, find out we’re overweight, and then lose time having to go back and redistribute and reweigh the load.”
The solution, he says, is to put accurate axle weight readings in the hand of the loader operator. Two years ago, Limar Enterprises installed Smart Scale, a wireless onboard scale for trucks and trailers with air suspensions.
Starting from the old load-cell transducer days, waste and recycling fleets have had nearly 30 years to weigh the benefits of onboard scales. They can help maximize payloads, reduce the risk of overweight fines, and eliminate out-of-route miles and costs associated with check-weighing at certified scales. The migration from mechanical trailer suspensions to air-ride has been a boon to the onboard scale market: pneumatic scales use temperature and pressure changes in the vehicle’s air system to produce highly accurate, reliable axle-weight calculations.
The latest innovation in onboard scales is wireless technology, developed by TruckWeight Inc. of Halifax. The company’s Smart Scale pneumatic scale senses changes in the air suspension and relays the data to a handheld receiver using a low-powered, intrinsically safe radio signal. The receiver makes a quick calculation and provides an axle weight measurement that’s accurate to within 0.3 per cent.
The signal has a range of 500 feet. Unlike a hardwired scale with a dash-mounted display, Smart Scale affords the flexibility to take a measurement from wherever it’s convenient and safe.
“It’s a huge deal for the loader operator to be able to check weights from his seat,” Richard says. “With the handheld reader, he can make adjustments as he’s doing the work. He’s not running to the truck and checking an air gauge or having to holler to the driver.”
Smart Scale has just three components: a sensor that mounts on the vehicle’s frame; a tee fitting that connects to the air line; and the wireless receiver. The sensor uses AA batteries for power, so there are no electrical connections that are susceptible to corrosion, wear, poor contact, and impact from debris. Because it’s wireless, Smart Scale eliminates the expensive installation and downtime associated with hardwired onboard scales. Installation requires no special skills or tools and takes about 15 minutes per sensor.
An onboard scale is one of those rare components that can have a direct impact on your productivity and profitability right away, says Peter Panagapko. “You reduce your dependence on certified scales. You reduce the risk of overweight violations. You eliminate guesswork in the loading area.”
Richard agrees. “We used to get to a point during loading and say, ‘I think you’re OK’,” He says. “Now the machine operator can say, ‘I have room for another tonne’ and put it on with confidence.”